James Bond was once a
promising and influential franchise name, but the promising Bond license has become the
quintessential cash cow and its being milked at your expense. While Bond supports
moderately good graphics and several cool gadgets, there isnt a Bond device cool
enough to rescue this thoroughly disappointing title.
There was a lot of
potential here. What with the Bond gadgets and the sneaking and the shooting and the
driving and what not--who wouldnt want to be Bond for a few exciting hours?
Goldeneye showed how successful the license could be, and Perfect Dark later showed us
once again how much fun being a secret agent with a lot of guns could be. So much
potential--what went wrong here?
Just about everything.
While Agent Under Fire is capable of delivering a few hours of mild enjoyment,
its more like the shadow of a good game, tantalizing images that are almost cool but
are dispersed and undone with anything more than casual observation. The story is weak and
non-immersive, the gameplay mediocre at best, the levels are simple, uninspiring and far
too linear, the gadgets are contrived, and the multiplayer is disgraceful. Considering the
level of the FPS genreRed Faction, Halo, Deus Ex, to name a few recent
titlesits impossible to recommend Agent Under Fire and its sad and
telling that its most promising attribute is that its appearing on the starving
Gamecube where lack of games to compete against is a predictable counterweight to poor
quality and shoddy gameplay.
Where games like Red Faction and Halo deliver strong narratives with you, the
gamer, thrust deep into the center of the story and the action, Agent Under Fires
story consists of discrete missions that fail to construct a convincing narrative. The
cutscenes and various radio transmissions attempt to form a cohesive fabric between the
missions, but fail primarily because the transition between missions is so jarring and the
missions themselves offer so little to move the story forward or compel the gamer to care
what happens next. Sure I always had a sense of who needed rescuing and who needed
killing, but I found it impossible to immerse myself in the narrative, and I couldnt
escape the feeling (rightly placed) that even if I hadnt known who needed saving and
who needed killing I still could have gotten through the game by walking forward and
shooting everything that looked suspicious and/or moved.
As the worlds premier spy, Bond has of course been equipped with the
latest gadgetry-- including a grappling hook, lock cutting laser, night vision glasses and
an all purpose computer remote control. This is a noble attempt to spice up the FPS genre
and give it a decidedly secret agent feel; unfortunately, the execution is less than
perfect and the final product feels largely contrived and unnecessary. Some of the
missions successfully make use of the Bond toyssuch as when you break into a complex
and photograph satellite blueprintsbut by and large they are neither woven into the
gameplay nor provide any sensation of being clever or Bond-esque. Take the grappling hook,
for example. The hook can shoot out and attach to a distant surface before promptly
reeling you across, or up, to wherever it is you want to go. Sounds nifty, no? It is, when
you can use it, and you can only use it to attach to specially placed metal plates--which
exist only so you can attach your grappling hook to them. The contrived nature of the
experience is pervasive throughout all the Bond gadgets. Its like having a sign that
tells you when to use your devices and this, unfortunately, isnt an exaggeration.
The enemy AI is somewhat less than brilliant. The have a tendency to choose
"stand around and get shot" as their main tactic. They can be dangerous in
numbers, especially at the higher difficulty levels, but theyre hardly creative.
Some opponents are more difficult than others, though this is because you have to shoot
them more times as they stand there and get shot, thus giving them more of a chance to
return fire. Armor vests are abundantthis is your source of health, so theres
really no need to be careful aside from increasing your ranking.
For a change of pace some missions are driving missions; these are pretty fun
and they look good, though theyre far too easy. Theyre also a bit too direct.
They have a tendency to feel more like youre on a roller coaster ride with a gun
than actively participating in a driving spy battle. A couple of the "driving"
missions do away with the steering all together and simply propel you forward along the
The multiplayer game is a predictable disappointment. While both the Gamecube
and the X-box have bots, an improvement over the PS2 version, its still not enough.
The stages are too small, and the number of bots and players can never exceed four. Why
does it seem to be so difficult for developers to make a good FPS multiplayer game for a
console? Why is the ancient (in videogame years) Perfect Dark still the undisputed master
of multiplayer FPSs on a console system? If the N64 can handle so many more bots
with so much more personality, why cant my Gamecube? The answer is it can of course,
but too many developers are still content to cut corners and deliver multiplayer modes as
if theyre an after thought instead of a selling point. Its too bad really.
Its hard to recommend Agent Under Fire. Everything seems to be sub-par.
As a relatively simple game it might be a good introduction to the genre. Considering the
Gamecubes skimpy lineup, Agent Under Fire might make a decent rental; despite its
many drawbacks it can deliver a few hours of fun, but if youre looking for more
youll have to look elsewhere. This also means youll have to be patient.